Tom Block

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Artist Statement:

I plan to use the Sugarman Foundation funds to work on portraits in conjunction with my Shalom/Salaam Project. The Shalom/Salaam Project highlights the strong Sufi (Islamic mystical) influence on the development of Jewish mysticism, following this unfamiliar tale from 11th century Spain and Egypt, through the Kabbalah and into the Baal Shem Tov¹s Hasidism in the 18th century. I believe that the popularization of this positive story can help facilitate the peace dialogue between Jews and Arabs, becoming part of the healing process of that fractured relationship.

Using the figurative "voice"that I developed while working on the Human Rights Painting Project, I would like to trace the history of this entanglement by painting such historical figures as Moses Maimonides, Abraham Abulafia and Isaac of Acco (Jews), Muhammad Ibn Masarra, al-Hallaj and Bayazid Bistami (Sufis), plus many more. Obviously, as most of these historical figures lived before the advent of the camera, these images will be mystical icons, legendary portraits of not only the personagesthat made brought this story to life, but also representations of the positive energy that has existed between these two contemporary enemies.

I utilize the visual arts, writing projects and scholarship to explore the interaction between the spiritual life of humanity and our sometimes-sad shared reality. My work is hardly religious, but it explores humans' attempts to make sense of this world and our shared struggle to develop and live by a moral code. At the very best, I hope that my art will have an activist influence, causing viewers to question their own personal roles in making the world a better place to live.

Afghan Woman Shedding Burka, oil on canvas, 10" x 20" 2001

Albanian Refugee, oil on canvas, 40" x 30" 2001

Dalai Lama, oil on canvas, 38" x 22" 2001

Irene Fernandez, oil on canvas, 20" x 10" 2001

Rivera Kalenzo, oil on canvas, 70" x 38"

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